That Little Knob on the Back

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We are certainly living in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse puts it. On a related point, the great lexicographer Samuel Johnson once said that there was one good thing about being hanged in a fortnight—he said it concentrated the mind wonderfully. Over the last few years, a number of events have caught our attention, and we are perhaps considering issues we never even really thought about before. We have all found that our minds have been concentrated wonderfully.

We are accustomed to the old divisions—Republican and Democrat, red state and blue state, liberal and conservative, or establishment and populist. I might perhaps even add northern Idaho and southern Idaho. We have from time to time wondered what you guys were doing down here—as I am sure the reciprocal question has occurred to you.

But there seems to be a new category in town, one that we simply must reckon with, and that would be the distinction between those who know what time it is and those who don’t know what time it is. I plan to come back to this in just a few moments, but we live in a time when business as usual simply won’t cut it.

Bedrock Instincts

It seems to me that we are living in a time when disparate groups that share an instinctive conservatism need to work together. But I need to define here what I mean by instinctive. I don’t mean “cruise control” conservatism, or a “path of least resistance” conservatism, or “I wanted to get elected in Idaho” conservatism as a stepping stone toward joining the national uniparty.

I am talking about a principled conservatism. It may be inarticulate, but it needs to be solid and present, and not subject to the woke winds that might be blowing out of Portland.

But we must define of boundaries of this as well. What do I mean by disparate? The disparities might arise for different reasons—regional, or ethnic, or religious, or denominational. Those sorts of disparities have existed alongside one another in our culture, many of them, for centuries now. This is something we think we know how to do, and so we assume that all is well. But the woke revolution is not simply another faction that wants to join the rest of us. The woke left is not an interest group.

The woke revolution is a cultural revolution, and I am not invoking Mao accidentally. It is an exercise in ideological imperialism and fully intends to swallow up everything. We wouldn’t know how to co-exist with them, and they have no intention of co-existing with us. One of the reasons we need to come together in order to resist this woke-jihad is so that we might eventually get back to the good old days when we were at odds with each other. Those were the good times.

In order to do this reasonably, we need to remember the old distinction between allies and co-belligerents. An ally is someone who is fighting your adversary for the same basic reasons that you have for fighting him. In the Second World War, England and the United States were allies. A co-belligerent is someone who is fighting against your adversary for completely different reasons. Again, in the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the United States were co-belligerents. The Soviets were fighting the Nazis because Hitler had double-crossed them.

So to summarize, there are people out there who have theological convictions that are completely at variance with mine, but if the Klingons were to invade earth, I would be happy to fight alongside them, shoulder to shoulder, and I would do it without grumbling. And you could perhaps summarize my talk today as simply saying “the Klingons have landed.”

This is not to minimize or gray-out the differences between people who might join up together to fight this leftist juggernaut. Christianity and Islam and Judaism should not represente conservative versions of relativism, where we all pretend that we “all believe the same things really.” We really don’t, and all those issues really matter. So what am I doing then? Here is the short form. I am fighting Klingons, and I am doing so in order to have the freedom to urge Muslims and Jews to put their trust in Christ.

So there is no need to water anything down, or abandon old convictions. There is a pressing need to think clearly. We need to know what time it is.

What needs to be the bedrock conviction of those who would join together to fight this utopian nightmare? It would be this. Reality is not optional. The objective world is simply out there, being the way it is, and no amount of wishing or hoping or graduate studies in critical theory will be able to change it into something else. Attempts to change it can result in a maimed and damaged version of that objective reality, but a paradise of a Marxist Big Rock Candy Mountain will forever and always be out of reach.

Refugees or Reinforcements?    

Now to Idaho. Every crisis is simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity. According to a recent set of rankings by US News and World Report, Idaho was ranked #1 in Net Migration—their composite made up of being #3 in best states overall, #2 in economy, and #1 in growth. Right after us was Montana, and then Florida.

Translated, this means that people are streaming here, and, as just mentioned, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity. And here is the problem. You have probably seen the reports that California is emptying out, in their quest to become the next Venezuela.

Let us conduct a thought experiment, one that is actually happening outside our thoughts. Not really a thought experiment. More like a real time lab experiment. Say that hundreds of thousands of Californians are fleeing the compassionate state and moving to Texas. This could go one of three ways.

First, they could move to Texas and continue to vote like the average Californian. This would simply be the cancer spreading out from the lymph nodes. This is how you turn Texas purple. Second, they could be the sensible Californians who have been voting against the crazy for the last twenty-five years, and they arrive in Texas, ready to vote the same way that Cubans in Miami do. They have seen the beast and cannot believe how stupefyingly complacent the average American is. And the third option would some kind of a mix of the two, which is what I take to be the most realistic option.

In Moscow, considering the last three years, we have had something of a front row seat regarding this phenomenon. In a larger town like Boise, you might not notice a great influx as quickly as we were able to see it in a small town like Moscow. During this time, hundreds of families have moved to Idaho and have joined our community of churches. Scarcely a week goes by when I am not greeted by someone at church who says, “Well, we’re here now.” Last Sunday there were two or three families like that. And in addition, there is a steady stream of visitors, scoping things out, considering jobs, looking for land. I have never seen anything like it.

In addition, we need to remember that the lockdowns—in addition to being an unconstitutional breakfast for the hogs, bucket and all—were also a major accelerant to what has been called the Big Sort. All over America, employees were forced into proving that they could do their jobs remotely, and so why not remotely from Idaho now, provided it was part of Idaho that had an Internet connection?

The challenge for us is to receive all such immigrants as the Idaho they believe us to be, and to do so without allowing the challenges of massive immigration to turn us into the kind of places they fled. This seems obvious, and everybody might be wishing for that, but in order for it to happen there has to be concerted and intentional action on the part of Idaho’s leaders. And that action cannot be that of resting on our laurels as a very famous red state. That is not good enough.

It might appear as though I am changing the subject here, but I am not. I can recall the day that Mount St. Helens blew up, and I remember a very angry looking cloud of something approaching us from the west. It looked like a dark weather front that had been taking metabolic steroids. When the cloud passed over us, the ash started to fall. And then when the ash cloud closed off the eastern horizon, I remember holding my hand up in front of my face, and not being able to see it. And it was three in the afternoon.

Now I speak in a parable. Mount St. Helens is a little over a hundred miles from Portland. It is not yet three in the afternoon, but everyone with eyes should be able to see what’s coming. The woke volcano has blown and what is the result? Well, one thing that is starting to happen is that when a municipal job opportunity opens up in some sleepy Idaho town, some busy and industrious types make sure to hire some qualified applicant from Portland. And so it doesn’t really matter if twenty sensible immigrants come here for regular jobs and a little sanity if the twenty-first one is their new building inspector, filled up to his neck with uplift and pure thoughts. He has a zeal for green energy and other opium dreams. He hates carbon, and everything made out of carbon—which includes you and your kids incidentally. You are the carbon he intends to reduce.

It may appear to you that I am allowing my illustration to overstate the case, but there are major metropolitan areas less than a day’s drive from here that are rapidly becoming unlivable. And they got that way for a reason, and that reason wants to rent a U-Haul also. They want to take the show on the road. They want to spread the joy. In case you haven’t considered the squalor that is metastasizing in Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco, you will be pleased to know that Moscow, Idaho is now giving out free needles. Your town probably is also. Just because Trump carried your county by twenty points doesn’t mean that some busy bee can’t give out free needles.

Speaking of U-Haul, you could spend an instructive time comparing truck rental rates from Portland to Boise and from Boise to Portland. The former, as of writing these notes, was $574 and the latter was over $200 less.

Decisive Issues        

It is not possible to fight every battle, all the time. So military thinkers know that in every battle or in every war there is something called the decisive point. That point has two characteristics. The first is that it is feasible, and the second is that it is important. Some important targets are not feasible to take. Some feasible targets are not important—it wouldn’t matter in any way if you did take them.

If the political landscape were an actual landscape, and if all the contended issues were towns, bridges, or hills, what would be your battle plan? Where would you situate your troops? What issue are conservatives in Idaho intending to win, and to win decisively?

And this reveals a very real problem we have within our ranks. In a state like Idaho, there are issues where it would be feasible to win, and it would constitute a strategic win for us, and yet many ostensible conservatives wince and pull back from it. Why? What is the concern? If we could do it, and if it would be a big win for us, why wouldn’t we do it? And often the answer is that if we were to do anything like that, the enemy would be very, very upset with us. Late night comedians . . . well, they used to be funny . . . would make fun of us. Big corporations would threaten to boycott our state. It all goes back to junior high. We wouldn’t be able to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids anymore.

Another point needs to be made here. A decisive point can sometimes be very small. When Ronald Reagan sent in troops to overthrow the communist government of Grenada, there was the actual military operation, which really was small ball. But the stakes in that action were huge, because one of the central things that Marxism had going for it was the myth of inexorability. They were on the right side of history. Dialectical materialism was their juggernaut. They had an eschatology that dictated that they would move from strength to strength, and nothing could ever stop them. What Reagan did was to knock the commie triangle down, base over apex. The importance of that moment should not be measured by the size of the pin, but rather the size of the balloon it popped.

The progressive myth tries to operate the same way. They tell us constantly that we “can’t turn back the clock.” Our reply ought to be “why can’t we? It’s our clock, we bought it.” And if the clock is wrong, then shouldn’t we turn it back? There is a little knob on the back. Turn it.

If asked for an example, what kind of issue would I point to? I am glad you brought this up. The progressive movement is at war with all borders, all definitions, all jurisdictions, all binaries. They want editorial control of the dictionary so that they can smudge every definition in it. We can see this in their views on grading in education, on immigration issues, on life issues, and so on. But the place where their zeal has caused them to get out over the tips of their skis has been with all issues related to the sexual revolution. I am referring to the alphabet people, especially including the + people. What does that + stand for, by the way? Smart money would say that children are involved in it.

So I am referring to males competing in women’s sports. I am referring to drag queens, and their family-friendly “twerking for tots” matinees. And coming down to my suggestion, I am referring to porn in the libraries of Idaho’s public schools. Remember what I said about how they hate boundaries.

But this kind of issue has two other advantages. The first is that there is a vast population of normals out there who would be thrilled out of their brains if their state government started to clean house on this kind of gunk. They are tired of being cowed, and they are tired of being governed by people who are so easily cowed. The reason this issue is feasible is that a lot of people believe that the world has gone barking mad, and they would rejoice to see the initial signs of a return to sanity. Living in a demented world is over-rated. The conditions are ripe for a preference cascade.

A preference cascade is when a large number of average people have been behaving as expected, or demanded, even though it conflicts with their own personal convictions. They don’t like it, but they are keeping their head down. They think they are the only one. But in this situation, an aha moment comes when circumstances reveal to this person that their suppressed convictions are actually shared by a large part of the population, who have all being doing the same thing that he was doing. One day, the eyes of two of them meet, and recognition dawns. Then the two of them glance over at a third, the same thing happens, and so on. The rock at the top of the avalanche need not be a big one.

The second advantage is that this is a suite of issues that is almost perfectly designed to help conservatives develop a much-needed immunity to what I call the “cool shame.” If Idaho were to take a decisive stand against this androgynous and very bleak future, and do it with a robust cheerfulness, it would be the work of ten minutes for the opposition to relegate the whole lot of us to the status of Comstockian censors, a bevy of Mrs. Grundys, a clatch of moralizing pecksniffs, and so on. But that would be good for us. It would be a tonic, a bracing tonic. It would be a sea breeze on an early summer morning. It would be a thrill for us to live, as one Puritan once put it, in the “high mountain air of public calumny.”

The balloon is over-inflated as it is, and so the pin doesn’t have to be very big at all. And consequently, the issue I would nominate to serve as our “conquest of Grenada” would be the removal of all pornography from all school libraries in Idaho.

I cannot imagine such a thing happening without it resulting in a freak-out of apocalyptic proportions. In fact, I cannot imagine it being seriously proposed without said freak-out. And I can imagine few things lovelier than Idaho conservatives not caring about that, not even a little bit. “We’re talking about no more porn for sixth graders, man. Be quiet.”

Our mental picture for all this ought to that of imitating Samwise Gamgee in the scouring of the Shire. We are done with tolerating the orc talk.

Never Give Up    

I said earlier that reality is not optional. It really is not. Would you take some encouragement away from my talk? It can be found here in this. I would borrow a word from the environmental crazies. Stupidity is not sustainable. It is not a long-term strategy. It would be nice if we Idahoans were among the first to recognize this.

Remarks made at a political event in Boise, sponsored by American Moment.